Thailand – Return to Bangkok & Wat Pho

– DECEMBER 26-28, 2015

With Christmas over its time to return to Bangkok for some more time exploring the capital of Thailand.  On our path back to Bangkok we made a stop in Kanchanaburi to see the famous Bridge River Kwai.  During WW II, Japan constructed the meter-gauge railway line from Ban Pong, Thailand to Thanbyuzayat, Burma.  The line passing through the scenic Three Pagodas Pass runs for 250 miles.  This is now known as the Death Railway.  Every year, River Kwai Bridge Festival is organized to mark the Allied bombing on November 28, 1944.

The railway line was meant to transport cargo daily to India, to back up their planned attack on India.  The construction was done using POWs and Asian slave laborers in unfavorable conditions.  The work started in October 1942 was completed in a year.  Due to the difficult terrain, thousands of laborers lost their lives.  It is believed that one life was lost for each sleeper laid in the track.

The Bridge River Kwai became famous all over the world, when it was featured in movies and books.  The cliff-hugging tracks and the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains and valleys makes for a great setting.  The Bridge River Kwai was developed into a walkway with side platforms.  This allows crossing the railway bridge on foot. These platforms are useful as viewpoints and for avoiding trains.  A small tourist train runs back and forth across the bridge, making the tourists move to the platforms to avoid the train as it runs over the bridge tracks.

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River Kwai Bridge – The “Death Railway”

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River Kwai Bridge – The “Death Railway”

We arrived in Bangkok in the evening, so it was perfect time to catch some dinner and head back to the hostel.  The next day we headed out to see Wat Pho.  Wat Pho is a Buddhist temple complex in Phra Nakhon district, Bangkok.  It is located on Rattanakosin Island directly to the south of the Grand Palace.  Known also as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, its official name is Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm Rajwaramahaviharn.  The more commonly known name, Wat Pho, is a contraction its older name Wat Photaram.

The temple is the first in the list of six temples in Thailand classed as the highest grade of the first class Royal temples.  It is associated with King Rama I who rebuilt the temple complex on an earlier temple site, and became his main temple where some of his ashes are enshrined.  The temple was later expanded and extensively renovated by Rama III.  The temple complex houses the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand, including a 46m long Reclining Buddha.  The temple is also the earliest centre for public education in Thailand, and still houses a school of Thai medicine.  It is known as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage which is still taught and practiced at the temple.

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Wat Pho

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Wat Pho

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Wat Pho – some great signage

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Wat Pho – some great signage

The chapel and the reclining Buddha were built by Rama III in 1832.  The image of the reclining Buddha represents the entry of Buddha into Nirvana and the end of all reincarnations.  The posture of the image is referred to as sihasaiyas, the posture of a sleeping or reclining lion.  The figure is 15 m high and 46 m long, and it is one of the largest Buddha statues in Thailand.  The right arm of the Buddha supports the head with tight curls, which rests on two box-pillows richly encrusted with glass mosaics.  The figure has a brick core, which was modeled and shaped with plaster then gilded with gold leaves.

The soles of the feet of the Buddha are 3 m high and 4.5 m long, and inlaid with mother-of-pearl.  They are each divided into 108 arranged panels, displaying the auspicious symbols by which Buddha can be identified, such as flowers, dancers, white elephants, tigers and altar accessories.  At the center of each foot is a circle representing the Chakra or energy point.  There are 108 bronze bowls in the corridor representing the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha.  Visitors may drop coins in these bowls as it is believed to bring good fortuneAlthough the reclining Buddha is not a pilgrimage centre, it remains an object of popular piety.

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Wat Pho – The Reclining Buddha

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Wat Pho – The Reclining Buddha

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Wat Pho – The Reclining Buddha

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Wat Pho – The Reclining Buddha

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Wat Pho – The Reclining Buddha

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Wat Pho – The Reclining Buddha

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We will be taking a down day for some additional trip planning, then next the plan is to go see the Grand Palace.

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For more photos of our adventure go to our flickr account here.